Cardin and Tron introduce bills to address inequality in education and increase federal funding

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By Yesenia Montenegro, Capital News Service

Senator Ben Cardin and Rep. David Trone, both Democrats from Maryland, have proposed legislation aimed at addressing inequalities in education and eliminating academic achievement gaps.

The Real Equality Act, whose full title is Transformative Reforms and Updates to Ensure Education Quality and Urgent Investments in Today’s Youth Act of 2023, will provide $1.4 billion in federal grants to states and local communities that prioritize education policy changes and address education inequalities. in traditionally disadvantaged areas.

“Maryland students deserve the best public education, and we are united in this fight for the federal government to be a strong partner in the positive transformation of our schools,” Cardin and Troon said in a statement last month. “The Real Equality Act establishes a stronger federal partnership with state and local communities dedicated to providing their children with a world-class education.”

The legislation parallels policy recommendations from the Maryland Commission on Innovation and Excellence in the Education Blueprint for Maryland’s Future. In 2021, the Maryland General Assembly passed a blueprint for making significant changes to Maryland’s public education system over a decade that includes increases in annual education funding of $3.8 billion.

“It’s a mirror image in some ways, in terms of priorities in federal legislation,” Eli Mitchell, co-chair of the Maryland Education Coalition, told the Capital News Service. “I think it’s really designed to think about trying to reduce some of the burden of the state burden that the Kirwan Commission has created in the scheme… So I’m sure the goal is to find a way to do some federal action to offset this massive influx of government funding that’s happening.”

The costs of implementing a future Maryland law scheme will be covered in part by federal grants made through the Real Equality Act.

During March, preliminary implementation plans for Blueprint for Maryland’s Future were scheduled from local school districts, the Maryland Department of Education, and other agencies involved in implementing the blueprint. Based on the legislation’s implementation timeline, by July 2026, the minimum teacher salary in every Maryland school district will be $60,000.

While his legislation is based on Maryland’s education reform plan, “any state or local jurisdiction can apply for funding as long as it is open to fostering intergovernmental partnerships that will increase student achievement, eliminate disparities, and provide a world-class public education.” For all the students Cardin said in a statement to CNS.

The COVID pandemic has played a huge role in reinforcing educational disparities, especially for minority and low-income students, according to Cardin and Troon.

In an effort to reverse these effects and improve public school systems, the legislation will focus on five key areas.

These areas will include new grants for investment in early childhood education, funding for additional training for teachers, giving all students access to career and college paths by Year 10 and funding for programs aimed at reducing achievement gaps. The legislation would also require states that apply for funding to form state oversight boards, which would hold state and local school districts to account if they don’t meet state educational equality goals.

“We now know that COVID-19 has exacerbated existing disparities and achievement gaps, so additional support is absolutely necessary,” Cardin said.

Mitchell agreed, saying, “The teacher crisis is not a condition caused by an epidemic.” “This is something we’ve been rushing toward for a long time, in terms of teacher shortages, but also in terms of not having the diverse workforce that we want in education.”

The mission of the Maryland Education Coalition is primarily to ensure adequate funding and equitable policies with transparent accountability in public education, based on the Maryland Constitution, which requires a “comprehensive and effective set of free public schools,” said co-chair Rick Tyler Jr.

Tyler said he hopes the Maryland congressional delegation can get support from colleagues from other states.

I will also say that Maryland has historically been a leader in education reform on a national level. “I understood at first that a lot of other states were looking at what Maryland was doing,” Tyler said. “This could be another way to join in and support this legislation.”

The action also drew praise from Cheryl Post, president of the Maryland Education Association.

“The Real Equality Act will provide a true federal partnership with state and local efforts to eliminate academic disparities across racial and socioeconomic lines and raise the bar for the teaching profession,” Post said in a statement.

The legislation is also supported by Maryland Democratic Senator Chris Van Hollen and Maryland Democratic Rep. Steny Hoyer, Dutch Robersberger, John Sarbanes, Kweissi Mfumi, Jamie Raskin and Glenn Ivey.